Killer Whales Are Attacking Boats And Seem To Be Teaching The Skill To Others

·2 min read
Imoca class sailing boat and VO65 boat takes the start of the 2023 Ocean Race off Alicante
Imoca class sailing boat and VO65 boat takes the start of the 2023 Ocean Race off Alicante

Orcas are attacking small boats in the waters around Spain and Morocco. The reason isn’t clear but let’s be real: Humans have had it coming for a long time.

Most of the attacks, which are coordinated between several individual animals, just cause damage to the boat and the disruption of a nice sail around the Iberian peninsula. Some encounters get very serious indeed, however, according to Insider:

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“At first I thought we had hit something. But then I quickly realized that it was orcas attacking the ship,” Schaufelberger told the German publication Yacht.

“The attacks were brutal. There were two smaller and one larger orca. The two little ones shook the rudder while the big one kept running and then rammed the ship from the side with full force,” he added.

The Spanish coast guard rescued Schaufelberger and the rest of the crew and towed the boat to port, where it sank right before reaching port.

Scientists say this behavior is likely due to a traumatized orca teaching the behavior to fellow panda fish. Alfredo López Fernandez at the University of Aveiro in Portugal thinks he’s even narrowed down the individual responsible for the attacks:

López Fernandez suspects that one, traumatized female orca may be to blame. Her name is White Gladis and, according to LiveScience, she may have experienced a collision with a boat or entrapment during illegal fishing. The incident changed something in Gladis.

“That traumatized orca is the one that started this behavior of physical contact with the boat,” López Fernandez told LiveScience.

That’s sad! I hope that orca gets the mental health help it needs.

Researchers found more than 200 incidents where 0rcas either charged at or touched boats. Obviously not all of these encounters rise to the level of “attacks” but the ones that do sound pretty terrifying. Orcas are incredibly intelligent animals and even have their own form of culture, according to the Smithsonian. They frequently teach each other skills and even fads, like this orca who began balancing a dead fish on her nose. Other whales joined in because hey, she was a tastemaker.

No fatal attacks on humans have been reported in the wild, but orcas forced to live in cramped tanks and perform tricks have been known to lash out. A large bull orca named Tilikum dragged the trainer who’d raised him into his tank and gave her horrific injuries before she drown back in 2010.

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